“We maintain that cold-blooded killing of humans, especially by state forces whose task is to protect the people, constitute murder and should be charged as such.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Relatives and human rights activists picketed the Department of Justice on Nov. 19 as they called for justice on the fourth year since the killing of botanist Leonard Co and his two companions in Kananga, Leyte.
Giovanni Tapang, co-convenor of Justice for Leonard Co campaign, lamented that four years since the killing, the Department of Justice and the Aquino administration have yet to do concrete actions for justice to be served.
“We maintain that cold-blooded killing of humans, especially by state forces whose task is to protect the people, constitute murder and should be charged as such. The judiciary should be at the forefront of human rights protection, but on top of reducing the charges, it is actively delaying the resolution of the case,” Tapang said.
The Co family petitioned the DOJ to review a resolution issued by its investigating panel which filed reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and attempted homicide against nine soldiers and obstruction of justice against 27 military officials. These cases were filed before the Municipal Trial Court of Kananga.
Hearing for the reckless imprudence charge is suspended until the DOJ issues another resolution based from the said petition for review.
A dialogue with DOJ undersecretary Francisco Baraan III was scheduled on Nov. 26.
Co, along with forester Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo, were killed on Nov. 15, 2010 while they were conducting a biodiversity research for the Energy Development Corporation in the forest in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao in Kananga, Leyte.
Roberto Austria, brother-in-law of Co, said during the program that reckless imprudence resulting to homicide could apply if a person was accidentally killed by a passing car. But in Leonard Co’s case, he said, soldiers kept firing at them despite their pleading and saying they are not enemies.
Austria also denounced the cruelty of soldiers who fired at Co at close range.
“The military is fond of shooting one’s extremities,” he said, referring to the gunshot wounds Co sustained in his arm and leg.
Co’s wife, Glenda, told Bulatlat.com that they have yet to hear from the DOJ since their dialogue with Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III on Oct. 16. Co’s killing is among the high-profile cases supposedly being prioritized by a task force headed by the DOJ.
“The CHR said Co’s case is a priority. What would happen to those cases that are not in their list?” Glenda asked.
If this could be done to a renowned botanist, Austria said the same fate could happen to everyone else.